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Do yo know how to recognize a Nocturnal Pavor from a nightmare? Advice from the sleeping consultant

Suddenly, during the night, you hear your baby screaming: his eyes are wide open, he is agitated and frightened and above all he does not seem to be conscious: he is not awake but neither he is asleep, his heartbeat is accelerated.

It seems to you that he had a bad nightmare and even thought he is apparently awaken he seems unable to get out of it. This is the case with a Nocturnal Pavor.

What is a Nocturnal Pavor?

In Italian pavor translates as terror and manifests itself with nocturnal “crises” which, however, do not have a pathological nature. So I can immediately reassure you: the Nocturnal Pavors, even if they are terrifying, have no consequences and usually the child remembers absolutely nothing the next morning! Basically, the only ones who get scared are usually the parents themselves.

Why do some children have Nocturnal Pavors? 

It is a common small problem in early childhood especially between the ages of 2 and 5.

It is not linked to any pathology, nor to trauma or affective problems and, as already mentioned, it has no consequences. Since the child is not conscious during the Pavor, do not try to wake him up as it could be traumatic. In these cases the best thing to do is to do nothing or at most speak in a calm and calm tone.

But what is the difference between the Pavor and a nightmare?


1. Pavor usually occurs in the first phase of sleep and the child remembers nothing the next day;

2. In a pavor crisis the child may also scream very loudly (which frightens the parents) and even when the parents come close they cannot calm the child down;

3. The average duration is 5-15 minutes;

4. It happens in only 5% of children.


  1. The nightmare occurs in the second stage of sleep: that of REM sleep populated by dreams;
  2. The child wakes up he is conscious, even if half asleep;
  3. Children may take longer to fall back to sleep.

What to do to avoid both nightmares and Pavors?

  1. Avoid television from the afternoon (from 4pm onwards) until goodnight time; 
  2. Try to respect sleep schedules because a too tired child is more agitated and therefore more predisposed to these situations;
  3. Check that the child does not suffer from sleep apnea;
  4. Don’t read books with monsters and don’t talk about scary things before going to sleep.

A very nice and useful thing to tell children is that they can have as many dreams as they like, but then they can start describing and thinking about the good moments of the day (e.g. in the park etc.) so that they fall asleep thinking about positive images and learning that they can control their thoughts!

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